John Heartfield


Pioneer and genius of the political photomontage; book covers, stage sets. Born Helmut Franz Josef Herzfeld 19 June 1891 in Berlin-Schmargendorf, to socialist poet Franz Herzfelde (pseud.: Franz Held) and working-class activist Alice (née Stolzenberg). 1907-8: studied painting. 1908-11: studied at the Munich Kunstgewerbeschule where he was influenced by poster artists Albert Weisgerber and Ludwig Hohlwein. 1912: packaging designer at the printer Bros. Bauer, Mannheim. 1913: moved to Berlin where he studied at the Kunst- und Handwerkerschule, Charlottenburg. 1915: military service of several months. May 1916: first photomontages, with Georg Grosz; Grosz later wrote: ‘…John Heartfield and I invented the photomontage in my Südende studio at five o’clock of a May morning in 1916…’. (quoted in Farner, Graphis 13, 1946) 1916: protested against German nationalism by adopting English name Heartfield; according to his brother Wieland, it was changed as a reaction to the chauvinist greeting (during World War I), ‘Gott strafe England’ (W. Herzfelde, 1955) 1916: founder, with his brother, and designer of the antimilitarist art- and literary review Neue Jugend (1916-17). 1917: founded with his brother Wieland Herzfelde (1896-1988) and Grosz, Malik-Verlag, a clandestine publishing house (1918-33) which attacked German culture as having been responsible for the war. 1917-18: set designer for film studio at Weissensee. 1918-20: worked in the publicity department of the Militärische Bildstelle (later Ufa). December 1918: joined the Communist Party (and designed posters and advertising for the Party until 1933). March 1919: spent two weeks in prison during the postwar political turmoil. 1920: with his brother and other artists founded Dadaist movement in Berlin: ‘Klubs Dada’. 1921-32: designed jackets and books for Malik-Verlag. 1921-3: head stage designer of the Max Reinhardt theatre workshops, Berlin. 1923-7: worked on satirical journal Der Knüppel. 1929: collaborated on Kurt Tucholsky’s political satire Deutschland, Deutschland über alles. 1930-38: created photomontages for the mass-circulation communist paper AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung) [Workers’ Illustrated Newspaper, banned by the Nazis 1933, continued publication from Prague until 1938]. 1931: first visit to Soviet Union, at invitation of journal USSR im Bild; spent a year there.

1933-8: lived in Prague, where he worked for the re-established AIZ (1936-8: VI: Volks-Illustrierte), designing over 200 antifascist photo montages. The German government requested his extradition but, with the help of the American journalist Martha Gellhorn and the British journalist Eric Gedye, the request was refused. 1937: elected honorary member of Manes Art Association of Prague. Heartfield remained in Prague until 6 December 1938 when he emigrated to England: aided by the Czech Trust Fund Committee (Thomas Mann Group), the Home Office and the Artists’ Refugee Committee, he flew from Prague to Strasbourg, then on to Croydon airport, London, the following day. Except for a brief period of internment early in the war, he lived for the next five years in Hampstead, north London, in the house of another German émigré-artist, Fred Uhlman, and his English wife The Hon. Diana Croft. (Uhlman would discover after the war that his parents died at Theresienstadt and that ‘his sister killed her baby and committed suicide upon deportation to Auschwitz’ in 1944.) (IBD, 1983) Heartfield was interned for seven weeks at Lutton [?], Huyton and York, in July and August 1940. He was finally released on medical grounds.

Uhlman wrote of Heartfield in his autobiography, The Making of an Englishman:

‘Another early arrival [in London] was Johnny Heartfield….Diana and I offered him hospitality for a few nights, but he stayed with us for five years. I had never seen him before and, as I only knew his savage photo-montages, I had expected to meet somebody aggressive; instead we found a charming, modest, meek and mild little man who only got excitable and fanatical when it came to politics.

‘When at last he left us and went to live in Highgate I gave him a present of a couple of rabbits, but as Johnny could neither kill nor get rid of them they multiplied rapidly, and he had to spend hours every day gathering food for them on Hampstead Heath. After the war he went back to East Germany, where they appointed him Professor of Typography at the University of Leipzig. He never sent us a single line.’ (Uhlman, p. 214)

Soon after his arrival in London in 1938 Heartfield became involved with the German émigré publisher Stefan Lorant who had used his antifascist photomontages in the pages of the British journals Lilliput and Picture Post. 1940: designed sets for a political revue presented at The Little (or Arts) Theatre, London. Heartfield also had his work published in Reynolds News, Inside Nazi Germany and as book jackets or covers, especially for the publisher Lindsay Drummond Ltd (1943-9; he also supervised the printing), and Soviet War News and Soviet News (1945), Penguin Books, and Contact Books (1946). March-?August 1950: Heartfield worked in the book production department of Penguin Books at Harmondsworth.

August 1950: his communist sympathies led him to return to Germany (GDR). He designed posters, costumes and the occasional stage set for the Berliner Ensemble, the Deutsches Theater, the Volksbühne (Berlin) and the Neue Theater, Vienna. 1956: honorary member of the Verband Bildender Künstler Deutschlands and the Czechoslovak Artists’ Association (Prague). 1957: member of Deutsche Akademie der Künste; awarded the National Prize for Art and Literature and his work was widely exhibited. 1961: awarded the German Peace Medal (Friedensmedaille). Heartfield died 26 April 1968 in East Berlin.

He believed his montages were simply a preliminary stage; the work was ‘finished’ only when it was printed for mass circulation. ‘Every scrap of printed paper, every line of print, every book cover must be a help in the great struggle, for the only way that can save us is the way shown us by the Communist Party.’ (John Heartfield, from ‘Heimkehr’, Rote Post, Berlin, January 1932, quoted in John Heartfield (exh. cat.), 1992, p. 32.)

Writings by

    ‘Die Kunst muss leben wie ein Baum’ (death of Adolf Hoffmeister), Bildende Kunst, 1961, 9, pp. 628-9
  • numerous writings in Siepmann, 1977
  • extracts from autobiography in Adkins, 1991 (see below).
  • Walter Amstutz (ed.), Who’s Who in Graphic Art, Zurich: Amstutz & Herdeg Graphis Press, 1962. , 1962

Writings about

  • Max Zimmering, (no title
  • memories of ‘Jonny’), Marginalien, 1968, v. 32, pp. 3-4
  • Comprehensive references (of many) are Siepmann, 1977, and Adkins, 1991. Siepmann has an interesting interview with Gertrud Heartfield concerning Heartfield’s later years, 1939-68.
  • 1920-45: (JH, Georg Grosz, Raul Hausmann), Erste Internationale Dada-Messe, Berlin, 1920 (repr. Berlin: Burchard, 1967)
  • Jan Tschichold, ‘Fotografie und Typografie’, Die Form, 1928, v. 5, pp. 140-50, esp. p. 143 ‘Von der Form des Buches’, Die Form, 1929, v. 21, pp. 572-7
  • F. Roh and J. Tschichold, foto-auge, Stuttgart: Wedekind, 1929
  • Heinz and Bodo Rasch, Gefesselter Blick, Stuttgart: Zaugg, 1930, pp. 53-6 (repr. Baden, Switzerland: Müller, 1996)
  • Adolf Behne, ‘John Heartfield’, Eulenspiegel, June 1931
  • H. Hauschild, ‘Über politische Propaganda’, Buch- und Werbekunst, 1932, H3, pp. 68-83 and inset (tr. John Power) Alfred Durus, ‘John Heartfield und die satirische Photomontage’, Internationale Literatur, no. 5, 1934 (Moscow) Wolf Reiss, ‘Als ich mit John Heartfield arbeitete’, Internationale Literatur, no. 5, 1934 (Moscow)
  • ‘John Heartfield’, Living Art in England, Jan./Feb. 1939
  • ‘Photo-montage: A new political weapon’, Picture Post, April 1939
  • ‘A master of political art: John Heartfield’, Lilliput, May 1939
  • Frank Hermann, ‘Der Malik-Verlag als “Wirtschaftsunternehmen”’, Marginalien, 1988/3
  • Und sie bewegt sich doch (‘Freie deutsche Dichtung’ [poetry]), London: Free German Youth (12 Belsize Park, NW3), 1943 (cover)
  • K. Farner, John Heartfield: Photomontagen zur Zeitgeschichte, Zurich: Kultur und Volk, 1945
  • 1946-60: Konrad Farner, ‘John Heartfield’s photomontages’, Graphis 13, 1946, pp. 30-35, 113-14, 121-4 Wieland Herzfelde, ‘Mein Bruder und die Fotomontage’, Bildende Kunst, 1955, 4, pp. 259-62
  • Gerhard Pommeranz-Liedtke, ed., John Heartfield und die Kunst der Fotomontage, Berlin: Deutsche Akademie der Künste, 1957
  • Werner Klemke, ‘“Die Inkunabeln sind immer die Besten”’ (posters), Bildende Kunst, 1957, 5, pp. 335-8, 351-2 Fritz Eggers, ‘John Heartfield – ein Künstler des Klassenkampfes’, Bildende Kunst, 1957, 12, pp. 811-14
  • Richard P. Lohse, ‘The influence of modern art on contemporary graphic design’, New Graphic Design, Sept. 1958
  • Alice Lex-Nerlinger, ‘Fotomontage – Ausdruck revolutionären Willens’, Bildende Kunst, 1959, 1, pp. 31-3
  • Fred Uhlman, The Making of an Englishman, London: Gollancz, 1960
  • Richard P. Lohse, ‘Ein Pionier der Fotomontage, John Heartfield’, New Graphic Design, Dec. 1960, pp. 13-17
  • 1961-70: Ruth Göres, ‘John Heartfield – Klassiker der Fotomontage’, Bildende Kunst, 1961, 6, pp. 383-9 Willi Wolfgramm, ‘“Meister einer Technik, die er geschaffen hat”’ (70 th birthday), Bildende Kunst, 1961, 6, pp. 423-4 Günter Feist, ‘John Heartfield oder: Wie aus “Uneigentlicher” Kunst eigentliche wird’, Bildende Kunst, 1962, 6, pp. 291-9
  • Wieland Herzfelde, John Heartfield, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1962
  • Vollmer, 1962
  • Christa Schwarz, ‘Der Malik Verlag’ (report of a speech by Wieland Herzfelde), Marginalien, Dec. 1963, pp. 69-70
  • W. Herzfelde, Heinz Gittig, ‘Zur Malik-Bibliographie’, Marginalien, Aug. 1964, pp. 4-32
  • W. Herzfelde, Krise und Katastrophe. Der Malik-Verlag 1916-1947 (exh. cat.), Berlin: Deutsche Akademie der Künste, 1966
  • Eckhard Neumann, ‘John Heartfield’, Typographica 16, Dec. 1967, pp. 4-12
  • W. Herzfelde, ‘Über die schönen Bucher’, Marginalien, Dec. 1967, pp. 27-8
  • Erhard Frommhold, ‘John Heartfield’ (obituary), Marginalien, 1968, v. 32, pp. 1-3 ‘John Heartfield – ein grosser politischer Agitator’ (speech at his funeral by Minister for Culture), Bildende Kunst, 1968, 9, pp. 494-6
  • Erhard Frommhold, Kunst im Widerstand, Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1968
  • Hellmut Rademacher, Das deutsche Plakat. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1965., 1965, pp. 178-81, 184, 251, 254, 272, 273
  • Wieland Herzfelde, ‘Er sprach vom Wichtigsten’ (poem, on the death of his brother), Marginalien, 1968, v. 32, p. 5
  • John Heartfield 1891-1968. Photomontages (exh. cat.), London: Arts Council of Britain, 1969
  • Heiri Strub, ‘Heartfields Fotomontagen in Stuttgart, Lübeck, London…’, Bildende Kunst, 1970, p. 166
  • 1971-80: W. Herzfelde, John Heartfield/Leben und Werk, Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1971 (rev. ed. 1976)
  • Lothar Lang, review of W. Herzfelde, John Heartfield/Leben und Werk, in Marginalien, 1971, v. 44, pp. 75-6
  • ‘Fotomontage als Kunst’, Form und Technik, 1971, p. 239
  • Detlef Marschall, ‘Zur Geschichte der Fotomontage’ (history), Bildende Kunst, 1971, pp. 204-7
  • W. Herzfelde, K. Farner, H. Strub, John Heartfield, Krieg im Frieden, Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1972
  • Paul Overy, ‘Heartfield: the art of propaganda’, The Times (London), 7 May 1974
  • Roland März, ‘John Heartfield’, in Wegbereiter. 25 Künstler der DDR (exh. cat.), Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1976, pp. 114-29
  • Hellmut Rademacher, ‘Zur Situation des Maiplakates’, Bildende Kunst 5, 1976, pp. 210-13 Franz Hermann Wills, ‘East German graphic design’, Graphis 183, 1976, pp. 70-79
  • H. Rademacher (intro.), Plakat Kunst im Klassen Kampf, Zentralantiquariat der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1976 (posters of the Weimar Republic, 1924-32)
  • Eckhard Siepmann, Montage: John Heartfield. vom Club Dada zur Arbeiter-Illustrierten Zeitung, W. Berlin: Elefanten Press Galerie, 1977 (bibliography)
  • Klaus Gallwitz (ed.), Dada in Europa. Werke und Dokumente (exh. cat.: Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt a.M.), Berlin: Reimer, 1977
  • Photomontages of the Nazi period, London: Gordon Fraser Gallery/Universe Books, 1977
  • Michael Töteberg, John Heartfield in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1978
  • Roland März (ed.), John Heartfield, Photomontagen aus den Jahren 1924-44, Leipzig, 1978
  • 1981-90: R. März, Gertrud Heartfield, John Heartfield. Der Schnitt entlang der Zeit, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1981
  • Herbert Spencer, Pioneers of modern typography, London: Lund Humphries, 1982, pp. 44-5, 50
  • Heinz Willmann, Geschichte der ‘Arbeiter-Illustrierten-Zeitung’ 1921-38, Berlin: Europäische Buch, c1985
  • P. Hacks, ‘Herzfelde, eine Zwischenbilanz’, Marginalien 1986/1
  • David Evans and Sylvia Gohl, Photomontage: a political weapon, London: Gordon Fraser, 1986
  • W. Herzfelde, John Heartfield, West Berlin: Europäische Buch, 1986 (well-illustrated
  • includes chronology)
  • J. Hauberg and others, Der Malik-Verlag 1916-47 (history and bibliography), Kiel: Neuer Malik, 1986
  • Lothar Lang, review of Hauberg, Der Malik-Verlag 1916-47, in Marginalien, 1986/4, pp. 64-5 Meinhard Knigge, ‘Wieland Herzfelde und sein Malik-Verlag’, Aus dem Antiquariat, 1986, 6, pp. A277-8
  • Berthold Roland, ed., Banned and Prosecuted [Persecuted?], Dictatorship of Art under Hitler, Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag, 1986
  • Bernt Ture von zur Mühlen, ‘“Benütze Foto als Waffe!” John Heartfield – Fotomontagen’ (Frankfurt a.M. exhibition), Aus dem Antiquariat, 1989, 10, pp. A400-401
  • Volker Rattemeyer, Dietrich Helms and others, Ring ‘neue werbegestalter’. Amsterdamer Ausstellung von 1931 (add itional on title page: ‘“Typographie kann unter Umständen Kunst sein”’ ) (exh. cat.), Wiesbaden: Museum Wiesbaden, 1990
  • 1991-2000: H. Adkins and others, John Heartfield, Cologne: DuMont, 1991 (published to coincide with the exhibition at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin)
  • Peter Pachnicke and Klaus Honnef (eds.), John Heartfield (exh. cat.), New York: Abrams, 1991 (English text)
  • P. Sager, ‘Demontage des Monteurs: John Heartfield’, Zeitmagazin, no. 20, 1991
  • F. Hermann, ‘Wirkung, Funktion und kulturpolitische Tradition des Malik-Verlages während des Prager Exils 1933-8’, Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte, 1991, pp. 189-213
  • David Evans, John Heartfield: AIZ – Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung – Volksillustrierte, 1930-1938, New York, 1992
  • Peter Pachnicke and Klaus Honnef (eds.), John Heartfield (exh. cat.), New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992
  • Ulrich Faure, In Knotenpunkt des Weltverkehrs. Herzfelde, Heartfield, Grosz und der Malik-Verlage 1916-47, Berlin/Weimar: Aufbau-Verlag, 1992
  • H. Kästner, review of Faure, In Knotenpunkt des Weltverkehrs, in Marginalien, 1993, no. 130, pp. 94-6
  • George Grosz, John Heartfield, and the Malik-Verlag, Boston: Ars Libri, 1994 (bookdealer’s cat.)
  • A. Schätzke, ‘John Heartfield in der DDR (1950-1968)’ Exil, v. 2, 1995
  • F. Hermann, review of In Knotenpunkt des Weltverkehrs, in Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte, 1995, pp. 426-9
  • Roland März, Heartfield montiert 1930-1938, Leipzig: Edition Leipzig, 1996
  • SB, 1997, pp. 74-9….
  • Meggs, 1998
  • Sherwin Simmons,”Hand to the Friend, Fist to the Foe”’, Journal of Design History, v. 13, no. 4, 2000, pp. 319-39
  • JA, 2000, esp. pp. 163-9
  • 2001-present: October (Dada issue), Summer 2003, Canbridge, MA: MIT
  • Maud Lavin, ‘Heartfield in context’, in Steven Heller and Georgette Balance (eds.), Graphic design history, New York: Allworth, 2001
  • Leah Dickerman (ed.), Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris, Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, and New York: D.A.P., 2005
  • Leah Dickerman and Matthew S. Witovsky (eds.), The Dada Seminars, Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, and New York: D.A.P., 2005
  • Jori Finkel, ‘The Dada Diffusion’, (book reviews), Art in America, June/July 2006, pp. 69,71
  • Charles Stuckey, ‘Dada Lives’, Art in America, June/July 2006, pp. 142-51, 206-7
  • Sue Taylor, ‘Heartfield’s Photo-Grenades’, Art in America, June/July 2006, pp. 156-61
  • John Heartfield, Zeitausschnitte. Fotomontagen 1918-38. Berlin, 2009.
  • Karl J. Steinorth, ‘“Film und Foto”, Stuttgart 1929’, novum, Oct. 1975, pp. 30-36, 41-5
  • H.K. Frenzel, ‘John Heartfield und seine photographisch-graphischen Arbeiten, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., 1927, no. 7, pp. 17-32 Rudolf Gabrie, ‘The book-wrapper’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., v. 7, 1928, pp. 44-54 H.K. Frenzel, ‘The political poster’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., 1928, 8, pp. 44-55, esp. p. 54
  • note on W. Herzfelde, John Heartfield, in Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., Dec. 1962, p. 64
  • Hellmut Rademacher, Deutsche Plakatkunst und ihre Meister, Hanau: Verlag Werner Dausien, 1965., 1965, p. 28 and illust.
  • Juerg Albrecht, ‘John Heartfield mont.’, Typographische (or Typografische) Monatsblätter (journal), St Gallen: 1952-93, Zurich: 1994-present., July/Aug. 1978, pp. 210-20
  • International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrés 1933-45, Munich, New York, London, Paris: K.G. Saur, 1983., 1983 (exhibitions, memberships, bibliography)
  • Kunst im Exil in Grossbritannien 1933-1945 (exh. cat.), Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst and Verlag Frölich & Kaufmann, 1986. , 1986
  • Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie, Munich, London, New Providence: K.G. Saur 1995- (from 1997: Munich only)., 1996
  • Ernst Fischer and others, Buchgestaltung im Exil 1933-1950. Eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933-1945 Der Deutschen Bibliothek. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003. Very comprehensive. , 2003, pp. 19, 102, 103, 104, and biog. p. 167


  • Peking, 1958
  • Berlin, 1961
  • ‘Film und Foto’, Stuttgart, 1929
  • Moscow, 1931
  • Kunstverein ‘Manes’, Prague, 1937
  • ‘One Man’s War Against Hitler’, Arcade Gallery, London, 1939
  • Museum für Deutsche Geschichte, Berlin, 1957 (group)
  • Deutsche Akademie der Künste, E. Berlin, 1958
  • Moscow, 1958
  • Deutsche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Dec. 1966-Jan. 1967 (Der Malik Verlag, 1916-1947
  • followed by Prague, 1968, Offenbach a.M., 1968)
  • ICA, London, 1969
  • Kunstgebäude, Stuttgart, 1969
  • Rathaus, La Courneuve, France, 1969
  • Overbeck Gesellschaft, Lübeck, 1969
  • Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Nov. 1969-Jan. 1970
  • University of Kent at Canterbury, 1974
  • Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1974
  • Deutsche Bücherei, Leipzig, 1976
  • Galerie Rönessance, Zurich, 1976
  • Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich, 1977/8
  • Städtische Galerie, Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt a.M.), 1977/8
  • Camden Arts, London, 1980
  • The Malik Verlag 1916-1947, Berlin, Prague, New York, 1985
  • Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek, Frankfurt a.M., 1989
  • Landesmuseum, Wiesbaden, 1990 (ring ‘neue Werbegestalter’
  • then to Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich)
  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1991
  • 1991-4: Berlin, Bonn, Tübingen, Hannover (1992), London, Dublin, Edinburgh, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles
  • Rupertinum, Salzburg, 1994
  • Rathaus, Wiesbaden, 1995
  • Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2001
  • Berlin, 2009
  • biography, description of 83 montages, and various articles, including Richard Carline, ‘John Heartfield in England’, in:
  • Waldsieversdorf, Sept. 2003-2004
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris, Oct. 2005-2006, then to Washington, D.C., and MoMA, New York, 2006.


  • Heartfield Archive, Deutsche Akademie der Künste, Berlin.